Richard T. Schaefer
Social institutions are organized patterns of beliefs and behavior that are centered on basic social needs. Examples of social institutions include the family, religion, the economy, education, health care, and government. Social institutions can be viewed as the locus of social problems as well as important players in addressing social problems. All societies have social institutions; they may be thought of as cultural universals that were first described by the anthropologist George Murdock as general practices found in every culture, such as sports, food preparation, and funeral ceremonies. However, social institutions are more complex, dealing with broad areas of people's behavior, and they have much greater social impact than a single cultural universal. Social institutions such as the government or the economy are such regular, ongoing elements of society that they are often regarded as “permanent” and that a situation is “just the way things are.” However, taking a longer ...